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19th-century Ewell: documentary studies


In 1801 Ewell was still a rural farming community with an annual sheep fair that was one of the largest in the country. There were two fairs in Ewell, one on the 12th May for pigs and sheep and the main one on 29th October for sheep and horses with a large pleasure fair in Green Man Yard (now built on) and stalls in the streets. C.S. Willis tells us that in 1831 there were 30,000 to 40,000 sheep at the fair, but by 1890 he recalls the pathetic arrival of only five sheep which were taken away unsold, and the disappointed looks of the gingerbread seller with no customers. This was the last time the fair was held.


The earliest detailed plan of Ewell Parish is the 1801 Inclosure Award (scale approx. 18 inches = 1 mile) which shows the fields and farms, each numbered with a schedule giving the names of the owners, and we are grateful to the Director of Engineering Services and his staff for providing us with two copies of the plan for our studies. The total acreage given in 1801 was 2440, made up of 1238 acres of old inclosure, 707 acres of arable common field land, and 495 acres of waste. In 1905 it is given as 2427 acres compared with 2190 acres in the four Ewell wards in 1961 or 2645 including Cuddington. The four largest landowners who between them owned 70% of the land in 1801 were Thomas Calverley with 942 acres (38%), Edward Northey 235 acres, Sir George Glyn 443 acres, and Frances Gosling with 142 acres. Another plan (scale 20 inches = 1 mile) and schedule were drawn up in 1841 for rating purposes, and we also have access to the 1865 and 1895 25-inch Ordnance Survey Plans.


Very little is known about Thomas Calverley, except that his son (also named Thomas Calverley) built Ewell Castle in 1814 on the site of the family mansion, and they also owned the Manors of Fitznells and Bottolphs. Amongst the Gaddesden Papers in the Kingston Record Office are many of Calverley’s title deeds acquired by James Gaddesden when he purchased the Calverley estates. These papers date from the 15th to 19th centuries and will be a useful source of information. Over 900 Glyn documents are held in Bourne Hall and a further collection of Glyn Papers are in the Surrey Record Office. A number of other documents, mainly title deeds and court rolls, are held at Bourne Hall, Kingston and elsewhere.


The population in 1801 (including Kingswood which was then a part of Ewell) was 1112 of whom 113 were chiefly engaged in agriculture and 177 in trade or manufacture. The 1112 were grouped into 220 families occupying 194 houses with only 6 houses uninhabited. (We will seek to identify these 200 houses, some of which still survive). The corresponding population figures for 1961 (four Ewell wards only, excluding Kingswood) are given on the next page.


      1961             1801

Population28,173    1,112

Households9,463        220

Houses        9,345        200


The population figures for Epsom and Ewell have been collated by the library staff from the decennial census reports, and we have extracted the following summary:


     Epsom    Ewell     Cuddington

1801      2404    1112

1851      4129    1622

1901    10915     3338

1951    30860     25762     7260

1966    35260     28930     7340


The 1951 Census figures for the five Epsom wards are 33,977, and 26,818 for the four Ewell Wards, plus 7,260 for Cuddington Ward. The wards have been rearranged at various times, Kingswood deducted, Cuddington added. Ward boundaries changed so comparison at this stage is difficult, but these figures are sufficiently accurate to indicate the general trend. The main growth period in Ewell came towards the end of 1930–9 with the development of the Ewell Court and Stoneleigh estates. Phyllis Davies has copied all the entries in the 1851 and 1861 census enumerators’ books for Ewell, various rate books, vestry minutes etc., and Douglas Carter has indexed the 1861 Census which will be invaluable for our study of the nineteenth century.


The Digest of Parochial Returns to the Select Committee for the Education of the Poor in 1818 shows that out of a population of 1,288 there were 172 officially classified as ‘poor’ and 186 children in the parish of whom 60 went to the two day schools. The Vestry Minutes contain references to the Ewell Workhouse and Pesthouse, whilst the Glyn Papers include a ‘cloak and bonnett’ fund. Catherine Hall has deposited a copy of her thesis ‘A consideration of the provisions for the poor in the parishes of Epson and Ewell between 1770 and 1870’ in Epsom Refeence Library.


The principal manufacturing industry in 1801 was the Powder Mills at Ewell Court owned by the Bridges family. Four wheels were operating, each wheel working two mills. There were a number of explosions at these mills and the parish registers record that two brothers were killed in 1812. Other deaths are recorded and amongst the Glyn Papers are the minutes of a meeting of the trustees of the Ewell Powder Mills Explosion Fund. C.S. Willis tells us that gunpowder from these mills was shipped to America during the Civil War, running through the blockade at great risk, and that it was said in Ewell during the Franco-German War that the French were defeated because they used bad gunpowder manufactured in Ewell!


Most of the roads in 1802 had strictly functional names, such as Reigate Road, Cheam Road, Kingston Road, Church Street and the rather grim sounding Gallows Lane and Gallows Green. It should, therefore, be possible to trace the date and origin of the later street names used for suburban roads by studying maps, documents and some of the earlier field names. Lincroft Avenue, for example, is a reminder that in c.1230 this was the site of a croft where flax was grown or linen made (C.F. Titford, ‘Ewell, a study in field names’).










1973/4 p.2–3

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